A First Aid to Philosophy

A Student's Guide to Philosophy Courses By David Benatar

A Student's Guide to Philosophy Courses By David Benatar

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Philosophy is a difficult discipline. Many students make the mistake of thinking that it is not. They erroneously believe that Philosophy is just about “giving one’s opinion”. In fact, however, opinions are not worth much (if anything) unless they can be well defended with clear, compelling arguments. Providing such arguments is harder than one might first think. It takes considerable training to sharpen one’s philosophical skills. 

The purpose of First Aid to Philosophy is to provide some tips for succeeding in a philosophy course. (Although some of what is said is of specific relevance to philosophy, much of the advice will apply equally well to other disciplines.)


1. How to Succeed in a Philosophy Course provides some general advice, and should be read at the beginning of the semester (and at regularly intervals if reminders are necessary).

2. How to Write a Philosophy Essay should be read before one begins to think about one's essay. The relevant sections should then be re-read at each stage of the essay. It is advisable to read this document one more time after completing the essay in order to ensure that one has not made any of the (common) mistakes against which it cautions.Sub-sections: Five Steps; Structuring your paper; Some useful hints; Logical Structuring

3. Avoiding Plagiarism should be read before researching one's essay and then again before one starts writing it. This section provides detailed guidelines on how to avoid plagiarism. At the end of this section, three (real) examples of plagiarism are presented. Students should look closely at the comments beneath these and make sure that they do not engage in such practices. Sub sections: general definition ; forms of plagiarism ;avoiding plagiarism ; plagiarism declaration ; examples.

4. Philosophy Exam Tips should be read at the end of the course, in advance of preparing for the exam and then again shortly before writing the exam. Sub-sections: Preparing for the exam; Receiving the exam paper; Answering the questions

5. Etiquette need only be read by some students, but since they probably do not know who they are, it would be advisable for all students to read it – at the beginning of the semester and whenever needed.